Low energy: what causes it and what to do about it

We all know what it feels like to have low energy. You only have to think back to the last time you had a really bad night’s sleep or after a period of eating less than healthily and/or drinking too much alcohol (all inclusive holidays anyone?) and you know what I mean. Lethargy, feeling blah, struggling to wake up or having afternoon slumps, it’s not a great way to be – but how do get yourself out of it? 

Step 1 – work out the root cause

As an energy coach, I work with women who are struggling with low energy. You might think that given my job, I bounce around all day long with a spring in my step but the reality is that I’m not immune to having dips in energy. As a mum with two primary school aged boys, a business to run and a home life to manage, it can sometimes all catch up with me and leave me feeling a bit zapped and sapped. When I’m feeling like this, the first thing I do is try to figure out what’s causing it – is it lack of sleep, has my diet been less than healthy, am I stressed? Or is it something else? Once I’ve worked out what it is, then I start to take action to get myself and my energy back to where I need to. 

When I’m working with my energy coaching clients, I take the same approach and we begin by figuring what’s causing my client to feel low in energy. More often than not, it’s a combination of factors falling under one or more of the following headings: sleep, stress management, diet and exercise – sometimes one factor may be more influential, but it’s usually a mix of several different things.

If I suspect my client’s diet may be a factor (which it usually is), I ask her to keep a food diary for a few days. This not only gives me valuable information about her nutrition, but it’s also a bit of a reality check for my client. A common response is that she realises that she snacks a lot more than she thought and doesn’t drink enough water. I do similar exercises with sleep, exercise and stress levels, where my client keeps a diary of what’s going on those areas of her life. Often my clients are so busy they don’t stop to think about how well they are sleeping or eating, so this is a really good way to get them to tune into what’s going in these areas of their lives.

It’s so important to get the root cause of low energy. All too often, when we’re tired and busy, we tune out of what’s going on in these really important areas of our wellbeing and instead we prop ourselves up with too much sugar or other highly processed foods, caffeine and sometimes alcohol. However, the less in tune we are with our wellbeing (or lack of it), the less obvious the solutions are.

“Awareness is the greatest agent of change”

Hormones can also play a big role in women’s energy. I work with my clients to help them understand how their hormones may be affecting their energy levels. I ask them to do an exercise where they track their energy levels over different periods of time (daily, monthly and seasonally). The energy fluctuations over these cycles can be very telling about the impact of hormones or other factors, such as lack of vitamin D in winter or SAD (seasonal affective disorder). 

So there’s some groundwork to do in terms of figuring out why you are feeling low in energy, but it’s always worth doing it. Otherwise you can end up going down lots of rabbit holes, trying things out with no guarantee of success.

Step 2 – make a sustainable action plan

Once you have a fairly good idea what’s causing your low energy, then it’s time to think about the lifestyle changes you can make to help improve things. I always advise my clients to start with a few small changes and then build on these. The reason for this is that you need to be consistent in order to build habits. It’s much easier to be consistent with small changes, rather complete overhauls. Giving up sugar forever is probably not sustainable for most people, but cutting back on biscuits and cake to once or twice a week is definitely doable. Drinking more water is one small change which is so simple and easy, yet it can have almost immediate benefits. So it’s always near the top of my list.  

In no particular order, here are my top energy boosting hacks which you can incorporate into your personal action plan:

  1. Eat more dark, leafy green vegetables – a daily dose of green plant-based goodness will deliver iron, magnesium and B vitamins into your body, which are all crucial for energy production. 
  2. Drink more water and cut back on caffeine and alcohol – dehydration is a common cause of low energy. Drinking plenty of water and minimising caffeine and alcohol will help keep you hydrated and energised. 
  3. Prioritise sleep – it’s impossible to have good energy if you’re not getting enough good quality sleep on a fairly regular basis. Putting in place some sleep hygiene practices, such as screens off an hour before bed, not eating too late and keeping your room dark and not too hot or cold, can really help. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, meditation or mindfulness, a warm bath with soothing bath oil or salts or a cup of camomile tea can be really effective.
  4. Dial down your stress with regular relaxation- taking a regular relaxation break every day is a real act of self-care which will help you manage your stress and make you more productive. So on those super busy, stressful days, take 15 minutes out to do something genuinely relaxing. 
  5. Revise your exercise – if you’re not exercising enough or if you’re over-exercising, it’ll zap you of energy. For most people, exercising for 30-40 minutes 4 or 5 times a week is a good target to aim for. Mix up what you do and you’ll not only benefit your body, but you’re less likely to get bored and give up. Try something new, maybe Nordic Walking or boxing will be your thing. But you won’t know till you have a go!
  6. Be kind to yourself – give yourself a morning or afternoon off every now and then and do something nice. You might go for a walk and lunch with a friend or just spend the time pottering around at home in peace and quiet.
  7. Freshen things up – from Marie Kondo-ing your wardrobe and drawers to taking up a new hobby, getting rid of the old and introducing new things into your life can be incredibly energising (however I’m not advocating having an affair!!)

On a final and quite serious note, if you think that your low energy may be due to something more serious, such as a physical or mental illness or a hormone imbalance, it’s really important that you take advice from a doctor or other health professional. Taking charge of your lifestyle is an important step in the right direction, but it’s equally important to get medical advice and support if you need it. 

Check out my ENERGISE 1 to 1 coaching programme to learn more about how I can help you with low energy.

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